Two Love Letters to the Great Lakes

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LOVE LETTER TO THE GREAT LAKES:

 

I HAVE ALWAYS LIVED CLOSE TO YOU,

I PADDLED IN YOUR SHALLOWS AS A CHILD, DRINKING IN YOUR TASTE.

WAVES CARESSED MY BACK AS I WATCHED SAND ON THE LAKE BED,

PILED INTO TINY RIPPLES & DUNES…IT WAS MAGICAL!

I DREW MAPS & GAMES WITH MY BIG TOE IN WET SAND ON YOUR SHORE

AND SPENT EVERY SUMMER DAY, EVEN SOME WARM NIGHTS NEXT TO YOU.

SOMETIMES AT NIGHT I WATCHED SILENT WAVES OF “GREEN LIGHTNING” 

FAR OFF IN THE NORTH, WONDERING “WHAT COULD THAT BE?”

FAR INTO THE DARKNESS I WATCHED WHITE CRESTS OF WAVES ENDLESSLY CREEPING TO SHORE,

SCANNING THE STARRY SKY ABOVE UNTIL MY SLEEPY LIDS CLOSED

 

I LEARNED TO SAIL…

ACROSS THE WIND ON A CLOSE REACH, HEELING & “HIKING OUT” 

TRYING TO STAY LEVEL SO WE COULD SPEED

TACKING & JIBING WE ROUNDED A MARK ON A RACE COURSE,

YOUR WAVES SPARKLING AND TEASING “GO FASTER!”

WIND ON THE STERN, WE FLEW THAT CHUTE LIKE A KITE PULLING US

TOWARD ANTICIPATED VICTORY.

SOMETIMES WE WERE FORTUNATE TO SLEEP CLOSE UNDER THE FOREDECK 

FALLING ASLEEP TO YOUR VARIED & CONSTANT LULLABY LAPPING LAPPING

 

I STORED THOSE MEMORIES LIKE A MOUSE FILLING ITS CHEEKS 

WITH CORN & SEEDS FOR A COMING WINTER,

STUFFING THEM INTO PLACES I DIDN’T KNOW I HAD.

NOW CALLED BACK IN TIMES OF STRESS, IF I CLOSE MY EYES…

I CAN WATCH THE SCENE PLAY IN MY HEAD, SEE RIPPLES & SPARKLES.

FEEL MY TOE SCRIBING THE SHORE.

I AM BACK IN THE SHALLOWS, A CHILD…

I AM RUNNING BEFORE THE WIND, LAUGHING…

I AM AT PEACE WITH STARS & THE UNIVERSE ABOVE

AND I WILL FALL ASLEEP TO THE LULLABY LAPPING LAPPING

 

-Libbet Paullin Terrell


 


Red Queen Waves

 

When the Red Queen led Alice

To the chessboard field

Where horses, towers, and men and women

Common, knightly, priestly and royal

Would play their match

(This was after giving an etiquette lesson

And explaining she owned all the ways

So that none were lost without her leave)

She ran pell-mell

The child hanging on tight and trying to keep up

But the scene around them, instead of blurring

Stayed the way it was.

Had they not run that fast, she said,

The world instead

Would push them back

At a pace to make the head swim.

 

You must move fast to stay in one place.

 

Evolution, I read, works that way.

All that lives must run, fly, swim,

hide, fight, feed, grow, multiply

To keep pace with a changing world

Or else be swept away

As those in the Red King’s dreams when he wakes.

 

Alice herself would make a crossing

Playing in the place of the White Queen’s little pawn-princess,

Through an oddly organized train ride,

Wondrous insects,

A wood where names wane,

Meeting those who step out of nursery rhymes–

Two who battle over a ruined rattle and flee a crow

An egg precariously on a wall

Who works words to his own will

Two out of a coat of arms

Vying for a crown that’s not their own

Along with eccentric pieces–

The queens assume different forms

And one white knight bears many inventions–

And two familiarly mad messengers

Until she reaches the farthest space

And ascends to a crown, title and feast

All the while, there is much she must stay ahead of

Before passing through the mirror again,

All the while collecting verses…

Many of those who live in the water

Mammal, mollusc and fish…

 

In the inland sea near where I live

Sometimes the waves are strong enough

To reflect the Red Queen’s statement for me:

As all the beasts, fishes and molluscs do,

Stride, tread, cling or swim as hard as you are able

To stay in one place;

I butterfly or crawl freestyle

Just enough to keep that pace,

But only in short bursts

Before needing to rest,

Lest I collapse like a bread-and-butter-fly

That has had no cambric tea.

Yet I would often fly to it

As an aspiring snap-dragon-fly to a lamp;

For if I can’t keep a queen’s swimming pace

I go with the flow towards shore,

Leaping in the waves, swaying to and fro

As a rocking-horse-fly moves from branch to branch

(Minding large hidden stones as I go),

Wordlessly curtseying in the waves’ wake

Freely acknowledging the lake’s Majesty.

 

-Emily Baker


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